Can a landlord back out of a verbal agreement if we already paid him money?

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Can a landlord back out of a verbal agreement if we already paid him money?

We were accepted as new tenants for a house rental. We gave the landlord $1,000 with another $1,000 due before we move in. He called us today and told us to come get our money because he wants to rent the place to a friend in a bind.We have already given our notice in our current home so we have no place to go in a couple of weeks. Do we have any rights here?

Asked on February 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you would seem to have enforceable rights, from what you write. It appears that there was a contract, even if at this stage, an oral (not written) one, to rent to you: there was an offer (e.g. that you could rent the house for a certain amount), which you accepted, and you provided consideration (something of value; i.e. the $1,000) to bind the agreement. When there is offer, acceptance, and consideration, there is an enforceable contract, even if there is nothing in writing.

Of course, to enforce this right against the landlord if he refuses to honor the agreement will require litigation--i.e. a lawsuit--which may or may not be worth it. If you could find alternative housing, it may be better to see if you could also get the landlord to do more than simply return your money--i.e. pay you something to get out of the lease--instead of suing.


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